Audacy: Using Audio as a Disruptive Force (for Good!) Increases Ad Firepower

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The term "disruption" usually conjures up images of chaos and confusion. But for audio right now, disruption is a good thing, and change is catapulting the medium to higher levels of success as new creators flock to the medium, more listeners tune in and brands pony up big bucks.

"There is an audio revolution happening," said Paul Suchman during a recent podcast interview with MediaVillage. He's Chief Marketing Officer for Audacy, a multi-platform audio company whose portfolio includes broadcast radio stations, podcasts and a fast-growing streaming app. "Changing listener habits are disrupting the way audio is being consumed. Creators, who are developing content across the entire audio ecosystem, are now disruptors and advertising, too, is being disrupted in a good way."

How fast is audio moving? Last year, streaming ad revenue skyrocketed 59%, outpacing increases in video and search ad revenue, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PwC's 2021 Ad Revenue report.

For brands, this sea change spawns opportunities to invest in audio -- or spend more. To help guide curious marketers, Audacy recently published its semi-annual "State of Audio" report. The latest installment is aptly named "The Disruptors: The Listeners, Creators and Advertisers Revolutionizing Audio."

To be successful, Audacy says brands need to stop thinking of themselves as interrupters and embrace the role of disruptors. That kind of advertiser brings a fresh approach to their messaging, which could be a new style, length, type of ad or multiple variations of a campaign. Brands need to be change agents and deliver informative and additive messages.

Among media, audio boasts these secret weapons: the intimate connections between listeners and content and engagement between listeners and ads. It sounds simple, but in today's cluttered media environment, advertisers don't just need places to advertise; they need attentive consumers willing to take action. Audio delivers on that.

In its report, Audacy notes that 61% of audio listeners listen through ads, according to Edison Research's First Quarter 2022 "Share of Ear" report. When consumers listen to an ad in its entirety, engagement soars. These listeners are 8% more likely to recall and 12% more apt to feel connected to the brand -- and they show an intent to purchase that's stronger by 10%.

In contrast, TV viewers are a distracted bunch prone to multi-screen behavior. "State of Audio" cites TiVo research showing that 55% of TV viewers use their phones while watching, and 28% are on their laptops. With so much competition for attention, it's hard for an advertiser to break through.

So, what's the best way to activate audio? Audacy recommends a multiplatform or "total audio" approach, where a brand mixes advertising on AM/FM radio, podcasts and streaming. When brands spread their messages out, they increase exposure and engagement, Audacy contends.

These "Total Audio" ad dollars work smarter and harder. When a client uses multiple audio channels, the costs to convert a new customer are 38% lower than a single-source campaign, according to an analysis of Audacy advertising by Claritas. More brands are following that advice, with campaigns that use two or more platforms up 20% since 2019, according to Audacy's Advertiser Campaign Analysis.

"We're seeing that digital audio campaigns are working harder when a total audio strategy is used -- across the board -- whether the goals are web visitation, sales or brand lift," said Ken Lagana, Audacy's Executive Vice President of Digital Sales.

A new generation of listeners is powering audio's growth. Audacy calls them "AudioX" listeners because they listen to audio across channels, including radio and podcasts. The company contends the emergence of these cross-platform listeners is this year's biggest industry development.

"With the proliferation of podcasts, the audio industry is seeing the rise of AudioX "super listeners" -- OTA [over-the-air] plus podcast listeners who ravenously consume audio across platforms," explained Idil Cakim, Audacy's Senior Vice President of Research and Insights.

These super listeners are young, educated and affluent. Among Audacy's AudioX listeners, 60% are Gen Z or Millennials; they're 67% more likely to have household incomes of more than $100,000, and 52% more likely to have a college degree, according to a 2021 MRI Simmons Spring Doublebase USA study. These listeners are also dynamic and tech-savvy, over-indexing on owning connected cars and using smart speakers, the report noted.

Those attributes make advertisers swoon. According to an Audacy Ad-Length Study by audio research and data firm Veritonic, AudioX listeners are more affected by ads. They're 33% more likely to recall brand messages, and that leads to 31% higher intent to purchase. It means that ads are being heard, and consumers are taking action.

To reach consumers most effectively, Audacy recommends that brands shake up their creative and production. The company works with Veritonic to gauge audio creativity. In their experience, the report notes, deploying two to four different versions of an ad delivers the best campaign results. Brands still achieve frequency, but with some variety, which keeps messaging fresh and relevant.

When it comes to ad length, Veritonic research shows 30-second spots are the most effective, balancing duration, effectiveness and ad spend. A 30-second message is enough to glean information, but not so long that listeners get bored and tune out. Of course, variations apply. Advertisers might want to do a longer ad when explaining a new product, and shift to shorter ads when they are well-known and want to gain frequency. But overall, when considering everything that a client wants to accomplish, the sweet spot remains the 30-second ad.

For brands wondering what to say, Audacy encourages them to tell a story, introduce characters and infuse the spot with humor. To maximize one-to-one connections, Audacy's report advises brands to get emotional. Specifically, "utilizing the medium's ability to intimately connect with listeners to foster stronger emotional resonance to their brands, and ultimately increase conversions."

As audio battles TV, digital video, social media and others for an audience and ad dollars, Audacy encourages brands to send more dollars to audio and see the difference.

"Audio gets a lot of credit for being a reach and frequency medium, but now we can layer precision onto that and when you do that, it becomes a killer tool for advertisers," Suchman said.

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